The reduced nature of today’s match demanded he play in a different way, but of late England have been playing Andrew Strauss in an ‘anchor’ role as one of their opening batsmen. This seems to be a colossal misunderstanding of one-day cricket in our eyes.
The role of the anchor is to bat as many overs as possible and provide solidity at one end. Despite what many think, this sort of batsman does still have a place in modern one-day cricket. That place is not opening however – it is at number three or four.
The one entirely predictable powerplay in a one-day match is the first one. For the first ten overs, the field is in and the batsmen deal in boundaries. This is one fifth of your batting overs. It’s nonsensical to have a so-called ‘anchor’ taking half the strike in this time.
If you’ve got boundary hitting openers and anchor batsmen at three and four, you can attack with impunity from the off, knowing that if wickets fall, you’ve got the right men coming in to rebuild. If you’ve got your attacking batsmen at three and four (England have Pietersen and Shah), early wickets mean your attacking batsmen play in a more reserved fashion, which is a waste.
If you’ve got boundary hitting openers and they don’t get out, you get a flying start. If you’ve an anchor there and he doesn’t fail, he just eats up the boundary hitting overs ‘building a foundation’.
Building a foundation for what? The five over powerplay that the batting team can use when they want? This floating island of slogging can occur whenever the batting team chooses, but you can’t base your plans around it for two reasons. One, it’s impossible to know how the match will unfold. Two, it’s only half the length of the opening powerplay which MUST occur in the first ten overs.
The first batting powerplay is the one time in a match when you can be sure which batsmen will be at the crease and what the field will be like. Being wholly predictable, it’s the one part of the game you can properly plan for.